No Happy Holidays with Plantar Fasciitis
The end-of-year holiday season is supposed to be a joyous occasion. Meals with your family. Parties with friends and co-workers. A few well-earned days off from work. Celebrating the reason for the season—whatever you believe that to be.
But if you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis, you may have a hard time working up to your usual levels of holiday cheer. Shopping for gifts or caroling through the neighborhood suddenly doesn’t sound too appealing if you know your heels are going to be screaming at you after 15 minutes.
So, do you want to be shut down with heel pain this holiday season, or would you rather feel better so that you can get back to celebrating and doing what you love to do? We’re guessing you’d prefer door number two—and we can help you with that.
But first, a look at how you probably got to this point.
Why Your Heels Hurt
Your plantar fasciitis doesn’t necessarily have one single cause. Often, there are a combination of underlying factors that work together to make your heels feel miserable.
Here are just a few of the most common:
Bad shoes are the not-so-secret ingredient in many “recipes” for heel pain.
Maybe they don’t fit properly and pinch your heels. Maybe they don’t have enough cushioning for the heel pad—whether because they were built that way, or because they’ve simply worn out. Maybe they lack arch support, which leads to painful straining, tugging, and stretching of the plantar fascia.
If you’re wearing bad shoes for long stretches at a time, heel pain is a fairly likely outcome.
It’s a statistically proven fact that having heels is a mandatory requirement for having heel pain.
Actually, what we’re really talking about here is foot structure, or the way they move (biomechanics). An “ideal” foot structure will do a great job absorbing impact forces and distributing weight and pressure over a longer period of time and larger surfaces.
Unfortunately, many of us have feet that are somewhat less than “ideal” in this respect. Flat arches or overpronation, for example, may place additional and unwanted stress on the heels.
Do you spend long hours on your feet due to your job? Thousands of Utahns do—teachers, medical workers, agricultural workers, and so on. And all those hours, and thousands of steps, do add up.
Working on your feet all day doesn’t necessarily mean that your feet are going to hurt, of course. Plenty of people do it with no problems whatsoever. But if you already have other contributing issues (like bad shoes or poor foot structure), your feet may be less likely to handle the workload.
If you have especially active hobbies or activities, this can also increase your risk of heel pain—especially if you don’t give yourself adequate rest time. Running, playing lots of sports, or even donating your time doing a lot of volunteer work could contribute to your discomfort.
About 25 percent of adults in Utah are obese. That’s actually a relatively good figure by U.S. standards—in fact, it’s the fifth-lowest rate of all 50 states. But we’re still talking about half a million people here.
Obesity, as you might imagine, can have a number of negative consequences for your health. Heel pain might not be at the top of the list, but it’s definitely on the first page.
The problem is a simple one—the heavier you are, the more weight you’re putting on your heels each time you take a step.
How to Heal Your Heels
Instead of ho, ho, hobbling your way to New Year’s Day (and beyond), you should head into Anderson Foot and Ankle and give yourself the gift of pain-free heels.
You won’t need any Christmas miracles, either. The great news is that plantar fasciitis is very treatable, and usually responds well to conservative care options. It’s just a question of figuring out which strategies are going to be the most effective for your situation, and then sticking to the plan!
Remember that big long list of underlying factors that contribute to plantar fasciitis? During your appointment, in addition to a physical examination, we’ll talk to you about your lifestyle and your work habits. Ask you when you first started experiencing pain. We’ll even take a look at your shoes!
Then, we’ll help you build a treatment plan that makes sense. It may include things like:
- New shoes. The ultimate antidote to bad shoes! We’ll make sure you can find a pair that fits properly and is well suited to the needs of your feet.
- These shoe inserts are a great choice for people with chronic heel pain, especially when there’s an underlying structural defect with the feet. They can add cushioning, support, and sometimes even motion control to reduce wear and tear on the heels. Depending on your needs, we may recommend either prefabricated insoles or custom orthotics.
- Physical therapy. Exercises and stretches that loosen and strengthen the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles can not only relieve pain, but help make you more resistant to future injuries.
- Night splints. If you have plantar fasciitis, you’re probably aware that the worst symptoms are often right when you get out of bed. Wearing splints that keep your plantar fascia elongated while you sleep can help reduce this daily misery!
- Activity modifications. This is a broad category, but it basically boils down to making smart adjustments or modifications to your lifestyle in order to reduce the pain. It could include everything from temporary rest, to running on flatter terrain, to placing a mat at your workstation, to switching up your workout routine to include more low-impact exercise.
- Medications. Sometimes you just need something quick to manage temporary pain. Often over-the-counter painkillers will be suitable. If necessary, we can provide a cortisone injection into the inflamed tissue.
Could surgery be a possibility? Maybe, but only in very rare circumstances when the above strategies aren’t providing enough relief.
And even then, our office practices minimally invasive surgical procedures, which reduces the recovery time and risk of complications (and offers other benefits, too, like less scarring and no need for hospitalization). Most plantar fasciitis surgeries involve releasing the plantar fascia from the heel bone through a small incision on the bottom or side of the heel.
Get Your Holiday Cheer Back
If your heels are hurting, let us help you brighten your season, so you can get the most out of your holiday celebrations! You can request an appointment at our Salt Lake City office online, or give us a call at (801) 269-9939.